No deal likely if MPS won’t bite the bul­let

Sunday Sun - - Comment&analysis -

YOU can only put off the in­evitable for so long.

Be­fore Christ­mas, Theresa May pulled the Com­mons vote on her pro­posed Brexit with­drawal agree­ment.

She ad­mit­ted that she was go­ing to lose.

But on Tues­day, she fi­nally puts her plans to the House of Com­mons.

Maybe she has a cun­ning plan to win MPS around. She might an­nounce at the last minute that she’s won some sort of con­ces­sion from the EU, to make her agree­ment more palat­able to MPS.

If she does that – and it works – then the panic is over.

But it’s not clear if there’s any way Mrs May can per­suade MPS to vote for her plans.

What hap­pens if the with­drawal agree­ment is re­jected?

One an­swer is that no­body knows.

It will be for the Prime Min­is­ter to go to the House of Com­mons and set out an al­ter­na­tive plan, but no­body has any idea what she will say.

It seems she hasn’t even told her clos­est col­leagues in the Gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, we do ac­tu­ally have some idea what hap­pens next.

The fact is that the UK is to leave the EU at 11am on March 29, 2019.

And it’s also a fact that at this point, we have no with­drawal agree­ment set­ting out what hap­pens next.

In other words, we’re headed for a “no deal” Brexit – which could be dis­as­trous.

It would mean that trade with the EU con­tin­ues, but the UK is treated just like any other coun­try that doesn’t have any sort of deal with the EU. There would be de­lays im­port­ing prod­ucts from EU coun­tries, from car parts to fresh veg­eta­bles.

And UK firms would find it harder, and more ex­pen­sive, to ex­port to the EU.

It seems clear that a ma­jor­ity of MPS op­pose a “no deal” Brexit, and want to stop it hap­pen­ing. And they prob­a­bly can. But the dan­ger is that there may not be any ma­jor­ity in the House of Com­mons for any al­ter­na­tive pro­posal.

If you want to avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29 then there are only re­ally two pos­si­bil­i­ties.

You ei­ther agree a deal be­fore then, or you don’t leave then.

The first ap­pears to be im­pos­si­ble.

Maybe we could ne­go­ti­ate a new and im­proved with­drawal agree­ment with the EU. Labour claims it could do it. But even if that’s true, there’s no way it’s go­ing to hap­pen be­fore March 29.

So the other op­tion is to de­lay (or can­cel) Brexit.

And that’s pos­si­ble. There’s been some de­bate about the le­gal im­pli­ca­tions, but it seems clear that the UK could sim­ply take back the dec­la­ra­tion (known as “Ar­ti­cle 50”) that we want to leave.

The EU would also, it seems, agree to a de­lay to al­low the UK to hold a gen­eral elec­tion or ref­er­en­dum. But very few MPS are will­ing so far to bite the bul­let and tell vot­ers we shouldn’t leave the EU in March.

If they won’t do that then a nodeal Brexit looks likely.

■ An anti-brexit pro­tester, left, and a pro-brexit pro­tester ar­gue out­side the Houses of Par­lia­ment

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